I played “Camay” by Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Capadonna all throughout the summer of 2019. When I write an essay or article based on a song, I listen to it on a loop, until I finish the piece. My creative process begins when a song or conjures up a thought or formulate a loose outline in my head. By the time I have finished the composition, I’ve exhausted the song and need to give it a break. “Camay” was different. Long after I completed whatever I wrote, I still felt compelled to listen to it.
It was standard and almost mandatory to have a song “for the ladies” on a rap album by the mid-nineties. They were often misogynistic. However, they were lauded and championed as street-hardened black men who’d shown sensitivity and vulnerability. One of my favorite movies, Fear of a Black Hat, once lampooned this concept in which a journalist asked fictitious rap group, N.W.H.-Niggaz With Hatz-about the new love song they planned to release on their next album. With all the confidence in the world, Tasty Taste-a play on Flavor Flav-rapped “I want to make you mine, slap your fat behind. Tie you down and make you whine. I want you to scratch my itch and be my bitch…because I love you girl!” all while a waitress, and older black woman nods her head and smiles as if the Jheri curled-emcee recited a Shakespearean sonnet. It’s a tried and true trope.
There is absolutely nothing vulnerable or sensitive about “Me and my Bitch” by Notorious B.I.G., “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” by Brand Nubian, or “Ice Cream” by Raekwon. B.I.G. was so enamored with the love of his life, who was there for him when he was downtrodden, he professed he’d beat her right if she talked slick to him. A few bars after Sadat X declares he has a righteous love; he inquires if the young lady was ever taught how to bone a man. With confident assertion, Lord Jamar tells the world is prerequisites for a relationship are a woman who submits but “loves to get blitzed and spend time;” he has to be the one to run the show (then commands we all dance to the tunes of Lord Jamar). The hook for the latter of these three songs is “Watch these rap niggas get all up in your guts.”
…But they still jammed and women for some strange reason liked them. “Camay” was no different.
“Ghostface said “Bartender, Chevalier Chateau, table three” in “Camay” like it was something fancy; but it’s cheap wine,” Dot said, in reference to the second single from the Wu member’s solo debut.
I laughed in agreeance and added “There is nothing sexy about anything anyone said on “Camay.” Yet somehow, it works.”
We briefly analyzed the song and its music video as we took turns inhaled, passed, and flicked off the ashes of a L. This conversation took place on the same bleachers I sat and watched my daughter practice soccer a few weeks earlier. Somehow, a series of ironic and improbable events evolved into weed smoke and shit talk about Wu Tang in a place symbolic of all my suburban dad glory; the whole vibe of the evening was an embodiment of “Camay.”
I think we appreciate songs and moments of contradiction because we can relate. We are more drawn to intent and downplay the offense because we appreciate the attempt. Perhaps we see a little of ourselves in it: in an effort to connect with others, we say and do things we damn sure know we don’t believe in or would never try in real life, and hope the sentiment behind our flimsy attempt is acknowledged. Acknowledgement and acceptance are what everyone seeks, especially when you put it to a dope beat.